Why is Paris so Dirty, Tense and Expensive?

As I mentioned in my transit blog, something was weird when I landed in Paris Orly. There was a tension in the air that I hadn’t experienced on my current journey.

As I moved around Paris either walking or on the metro, the tension came and went in waves, but after 1 week, I was emotionally exhausted.

Even writing this blog has been quite difficult for me, as Paris really took the wind out of my travel sails…

The Paris Illusion

Paris is a “dream destination” and bucket list place for many travellers. The big screen worships Paris as the city of romance and love. How long it will maintain this impression, only time will tell.  The cracks may be starting to show… Poor Kim.

My first visit to Paris was in Winter 2001, and I didn’t really like the city then, but now, it’s much worse. So what’s actually wrong with Paris?

I’ve read a few blogs from travelers who call it something like… “false expectations” or similar? Where your idea of a place, doesn’t match the reality.  I’m past that, and now I’m just comparing Paris to all the cities I recently visited.

These are some of the issues that I experienced during my week in Paris, that created a very poor experience:

The Bad Smell

It’s not just the metro and train stations, but the majority of the streets in Paris I visited smelled like urine. Also there are ridiculous amounts of dog poo everywhere… like dog owners haven’t heard of the worldwide trend of picking it up!

I visited quite a few androssiment’s too – 1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 18. Only the canal area in androssiment 10 was ok. I’m not sure why the smell is so bad.

Maybe Paris has an extremely high proportion of dog owners? Maybe a part of the population just urinates on the street? I’m not exactly sure how the city could fix this?

The Dirtiness

France is the 15th country I’ve visited this year, so I’ve seen a lot of cities across the world in the US, Asia, Australia and Europe. And Paris is definitely the dirtiest I have seen.


It’s not just the dog poo, as I was shocked with the amount of beer cans, beer bottles and pieces of green glass smashed in many places. And that wasn’t even the worst.

The worst was the copious amounts of condom packets, and used condoms on the streets, especially in the very centre near Les Halles – Paris 1.


Of course, there is a funny side at first, but after stepping around the 10th condom, it starts to feel really gross. I don’t get it. How do the people living in Paris stand it?

High Tension and Security

Paris is on full terrorism alert and it is sad that Paris has suffered such attacks. No people or city deserve such an atrocity. But it feels like the city is being punished ever since.


The security is off the charts, and it definitely doesn’t make me feel safer. This is the first time in my life I have had my handbag searched going into McDonald’s on Champs Élysées. What the?

And then again going into the Shopping Centre, and then again for individual shops. My anxiety kicked in, and I lost my will to shop.

Also, the overly armed military on the streets is very unnerving. Those green uniforms and massive automatic guns. I don’t feel safe at all. I feel like “terror” has won.


It is surprising to me, that terror attacks mean more guns on the streets. Looks like escalation, and doesn’t seem like a solution that is logical. Yet the people of Paris say nothing.

Mass Tourism

Paris is in the top 5 most visited cities in the world, and even though some tourists stayed away this year due to the terror attacks, it was still pretty busy.

The saddest effect of mass tourism that I saw was the field of dirt where grass used to be in front of the Eiffel Tower.



I was even advised against visiting the Louvre Museum due to “locust tourists” and “selfie stick mafia”, so I stayed away.


Except one morning I went early just to revisit the glass pyramid.

Over this summer across all of Europe, was an increasing movement of locals protesting against the mass tourism hordes, and it seems the locals in Paris are losing some patience as well.

Scams and Pick-Pockets

Yes, scams and pick-pockets are a major problem in a lot of capital cities, and sadly Paris is playing with the best of them.

Paris is the only city where I heard warnings CONSTANTLY about pick-pockets… pretty much from everyone I met and as a recording played while on the metro.  Holy moly!

Yes, I became paranoid.

But it’s not just the pick-pockets which are a big problem…

Don’t Sign the Petition! It’s a Con

Locals and a few blogs told me about this one.  You are visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe or the Notre Dame cathedral, and a friendly looking person charges at you and asks you to sign their petition for…. (insert passionate cause here).

THEN, while you are signing you:

a) get pick-pocketed by them or their companion


b) get asked for a “donation” to their cause

It is a con, as they pocket the cash. One cafe owner told me that a tourist she just met gave EUR100 to their cause!

These people are bottom-feeders and pray on the good will of most tourists.  Do not sign, shoo them away, and don’t give them money.

Apparently these con-artists are shipped into the touristic areas from the outskirts of Paris, and yes, they are making a fortune.


The price of eating out and coffee in Paris was a shock to me, but I guess it shouldn’t have been.

In my search for freshly roasted and ground coffee, I was financially penalised, paying EUR5.50 (AUS$8) for a coffee.  And I couldn’t seem to find fresh coffee for less than EUR4 (AUD$6) anywhere.  This reduced my intake of coffee considerably and really made me appreciate every sip!

Eating out was expensive too.  When I use the word “expensive”, I am comparing Paris to every other city I have visited on this journey since June.  London, Oslo and Copenhagen are pretty close behind.

I guess it’s so expensive because sooooo many people live in Paris, so it’s supply and demand.  I also guess that it’s expensive because so many tourists visit Paris.

However, I did find the groceries in the supermarkets to be more affordable, so eating at home was my best option.

All Doom and Gloom?

You might be wondering if I enjoyed Paris at all?  Yes and no.  The bad really did outweigh the good though. Which is a shame.

This overall poor experience means that it is unlikely that I will return to Paris.  BUT I did have a few nice moments… which I will share in my next post.

7 comments to “Why is Paris so Dirty, Tense and Expensive?”
  1. This is EXACTLY and i do mean EXACTLY how i felt on my trip to Paris just a week ago. I feel protective of where I live now. I do not even want to brag about my home. I would rather be a tourist in my own home than travel to Europe again anytime soon. The feeling i was hoping for was not there. It was so dirty. And restaurants and cafes did not seem to take pride in their food or service. It is sad. Why is garbage such a problem in Europe? And public urination…perhaps its because the restrooms are appalling….
    Whatever the issues I wish for the residents of Paris that a day comes that gives the magic back to what could be a beautiful city.

    • Sorry to hear you had the same experience. Could be over-tourism, could be the rise of individualism and not caring about their community? I hope one day, it turns around.

  2. Perhaps Paris is over-visited and tourists must share the blame too. They bring their bad habits. Paris is just like any big city. Try going to NY, and you’ll be lucky if you don’t see a scurrying rat in the sideway, or grime and trash in the street…..

    • Hi Tom, wow, I wrote this in 2016 – 4 years ago – so maybe things have changed since then? Probably not much.

      I have been visiting Paris since 2001, and I was just as disappointed then, as I was in 2016. I blame movies for false expectations.

      Yes, tourists are also totally to blame. As travel has become cheaper, so many more entitled and disrespectful “ego” travelers have descended to get their selfies and move on. It will take a whole community and collective effort to make this right again.

    • I ve been living in Paris for over half a century and I confirm what you are exposing it’s 100% accurate (and the reality in 2021 is even worse). Unfortunately Parisians like Californians keep electing the same kind of horrible politicians who are unable or unwilling to solve those issues.

  3. I visited Paris in February of 1988 and it impressed me then as smelly and dirty. I came by train from Germany ( shockingly clean by comparison). I might note that, when I was there, I noticed thousands of homeless people and exactly ZERO free public toilets, so perhaps it isn’t “dog” poo you were seeing. Also, while one CAN find dirty places in all cities, Paris seemed to be as dirty at its landmarks and show places as elsewhere. I wouldn’t expect to step into poo on the steps of the Washington monument, but I did on the steps of the Eiffel tower.

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